In partnership with the Directorate of Planning and Experimentation of Strategic Development of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL-SDPE), AFSOC is developing an MC-130J Commando II (MAC) amphibious capability for improve platform support for maritime special operations. “The development of MAC capability is the culmination of multiple lines of effort,” said Lt. Col. Josh Trantham, deputy division chief of science, systems, technology and innovation (SST & I) of AFSOC. “This capability enables the Air Force to increase placement and access for infiltration, exfiltration and recovery of personnel, as well as to provide improved logistics capabilities for competition and future conflict.”
The development of a modification of a removable amphibious float for an MC-130J would allow “to be independent of the runway.” operations, which Trantham said would extend the global reach and survivability of the aircraft and air commandos. “Maritime operations provide almost unlimited water landing zones, providing significant flexibility to the joint force,” said Trantham.
The use of MAC capability can provide unrestricted operational access to waterways to distribute forces if land resources are compromised.
“The MAC is vital for future success because it will allow the dispersal of resources within a joint operations area,” said Maj Kristen Cepak, head of AFSOC’s technology transition branch. “This diaspora complicates the targeting of the aircraft by our adversaries and limits the vulnerability of the aircraft to fixed locations.”
A working group of industrial partners works closely with AFSOC and AFRL-SDPE to bring the vision to life. A five-phase rapid prototyping schedule will lead to a demonstration of operational capability in just 17 months while reducing the risk of the concept of a potential future MAC registration program that could implement a MAC for MC-130Js, but also potentially set up a similar amphibious capability for other C-130 Variants with only minor variations.
AFSOC and its private sector counterparts are currently testing MAC prototypes through digital design, virtual reality (VR) modeling, and computer-aided design (CAD) in a virtual setting known as of Digital Proving Ground (DPG), paving the way for digital simulation, testing and the use of advanced manufacturing for rapid prototyping and testing of physical prototypes.
According to Trantham and Cepak, the DPG can provide mission review, aircraft system analysis, design ideation, engineering risk reduction, virtual reality, conceptual imagery, feasibility studies and other deliverables.
“Being able to experiment with existing technology to assess design tradeoffs and test a new system before bending metal is a game-changer,” Cepak said. “AFSOC intelligently evolves and experiments to reduce technical risk and deliver capacity to the field faster and more efficiently than ever before. “
According to Trantham, while Project MAC demonstrates rapid capability development for AFSOC, the Air Force and Total Force will also benefit.
“We believe that MAC will be able to be used by our sister services, allies and partners on various C-130 platforms,” he said. “In addition, expanding the operational use of an amphibious aircraft alongside other innovative tools will pose even more complex dilemmas in future battlespaces for our strategic competitors.”